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Top telecom execs spoke about the need to rework Europe’s regulatory framework on Monday, using the Mobile World Congress to amplify their voice. The execs are calling for unified oversight across the 27-nation bloc.

Telefonica’s Jose-aria Alvarez-Pallete gave the opening keynote session of the industry’s most significant annual gathering, saying that the European regulatory framework is “totally outdated.” He added that regulation today is based on the networks of a century that has come and gone. Building 5G networks require billions in funding and telecom operators are keen to tap into this windfall to grow.

The 5G pie

The providers are looking to grow by tapping into new use-cases and services for the next generation of people and technology. The industry is planning to invest about $900 billion in the next four years. 80% of it is aimed at the expansion of 5G networks, according to the mobile communications industry body.

4G helped create multi-billion-dollar businesses that include music and video streaming, cab-hailing, food delivery, and more. Telecom operators seldom got a share of the growth, which would explain why they are eager to benefit from 5G.

The plan going forward

Tim Hoettges, the CEO of Deutsche Telekom, said Europe’s telco space is crumbling, due to the 27 different regulations, while messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook ride free on network infrastructure built by telecoms.

Hoettges told his counterparts that “we need to wake up,” adding that the collective needs to find a fair playing field in the industry alongside politicians who can set out a vision for Europe. The European Commission has laid out a connectivity plan that will cover all European households by 2030, using a Gigabit network while populating all areas with 5G.